Homegrown veggies are hard-earned, and seeing them go to waste is awful. Harvesting and storing your garden vegetables properly will reduce waste, maximize quality, and make the veggies available throughout the year.
Growing Your Favorites
The first step is to grow what you love. There's no point in dedicating time and effort to crops that you don't enjoy eating. Focus on the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating. If you're not a fan of kale, skip it and opt for something that you like. However, don't be afraid to experiment and try something new. You might discover a new favorite that you never expected.
Finding the Right Balance
It's easy to get carried away and plant a vast variety of crops in your garden. While it's exciting to have a diverse selection, it's essential to strike a balance. Consider the space you have available and the amount of produce your household can realistically consume.
Eating with the Seasons
Rather than trying to fit your garden's bounty into existing recipes, embrace the concept of eating with the seasons. Plan your meals around the produce that's currently thriving in your garden. In the summer, make recipes with zucchini, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and more. When winter arrives, shift your focus to leafy greens, root vegetables, and hearty crops like squash and broccoli.
Harvesting and Storing for Maximum Freshness
Proper harvesting and storage techniques are crucial for extending the lifespan of your homegrown produce. When it's time to harvest, aim to do it early in the day or during cooler weather. This ensures that your crops remain cool and firm, which makes them more likely to stay fresh during storage.
Transfer your produce to airtight containers or reusable bags to maintain crispness. Leafy greens and root vegetables benefit from a tiny splash of water in their storage containers. Remember to remove the leafy green tops from root vegetables to prevent early spoilage.
Preserving Homegrown Crops
Preserving your homegrown produce is not only a fantastic way to reduce waste but also an opportunity to enjoy the flavors of your garden all year round. Preferred preservation methods include fermentation, freezing, dehydrating, and pickling. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and pickles, offer probiotic benefits and transform your harvest into tangy delights.
Freezing is perfect for preserving soups, sauces, and purees. Dehydrating allows you to create dried herbs, spices, and fruit chips rich in flavor. Pickling is also a great preservation method for cucumbers, onions, and peppers.
Learn more about dehydrating, freezing, and canning vegetables here.
Sharing the Bounty
Donating excess homegrown goods to friends, family, colleagues, or local organizations is a wonderful way to spread joy and reduce waste. Consider setting up a roadside "free food" library or reaching out to food banks and shelters in your area. Sharing your harvest not only benefits others but also creates a sense of community and connection.
Maximize Use, Minimize Waste
Reducing waste goes beyond sharing your excess produce. There are countless ways to maximize the use of every part of your homegrown goods and minimize waste. Did you know that you can eat carrot and radish greens, broccoli and cauliflower leaves, and even seed pods from bolted radishes? Get creative and explore recipes that utilize the often-overlooked parts of your crops.
You can upcycle food scraps to create something even better. Citrus peels are great as a dried powder or household cleaner, and veggie scraps can be turned into flavorful homemade broth.